“Organic foods and pastured animals are not really that much more nutritious, so it isn’t worth paying all that extra money for them.”
NOT SO. The following is the short version of my answer. A response to this statement is a book unto itself.
A recent report from researchers at StanfordUniversity resulted from a meta-analysis of 240 studies comparing organically and chemically grown food. Seventeen of these studies looked at the impact on humans; the other studies looked at the food. They concluded that “the published literature lacks strong evidence that organic foods are significantly more nutritious than conventional foods,” though consuming them “may reduce exposure to pesticide residues and antibiotic-resistant bacteria.”
What this summary doesn’t tell the reader is that the studies were mixed, many studies DID find nutritional benefits such as more micronutrients in produce and more omega-3 fatty acids in organic pastured beef, dairy, and poultry. Other studies did not identify benefits.
None of these studies looked at long-term health outcomes, and the longest human study lasted only two years. Eating organic provides less exposure to pesticides to both the consumer and the farmer, thus decreasing the toxic load on the body. Toxins damage cells when the body can’t clear them. There is research showing this damage contributes to diabetes, obesity, and auto-immune disorders. Furthermore, it could take many years for the cumulative effects of pesticide buildup in the body from eating conventionally grown food to show up. Cancer risks, for example, are calculated over long periods of exposure to carcinogens.
Furthermore, the study downplays the importance of the prohibition of antibiotics in organic agriculture, which can help counter the serious public-health problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Such bacteria have increased greatly in prevalence in recent years, possibly due to the routine use of antibiotics in conventionally raised farm animals. Indeed, the meta-analysis determined that conventionally produced chicken and pork had a 33% higher risk for bacteria that is known to be resistant to at least three antibiotics.
The study also doesn’t investigate the effects of hormones regularly given to conventionally raised animals.
In addition to gaining the possible nutritional and health benefits, many people choose to eat organically because organic agriculture is better for the environment and they believe organically grown food tastes better than conventionally grown food.
For those who would like to eat more organic, the Environmental Working Group tests produce annually for pesticide residue and prints an updated list of the most contaminated and least contaminated fruits and vegetables. Check their list at: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/summary/